Traditionally, the corporate houses in South Asian countries have been serving the society through their philanthropic activities in the form of social welfare schemes funding in the fields of education, health, financial support for the poor, etc. Businesses (like sugar mills) established by service minded entrepreneurs in the rural areas, in the form of private or co-operative societies with the support of local farmers and the Government, helped to improve not only the income of the local population, but also facilitate development of facilities like better roads, communication facilities, etc.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) extends beyond philanthropic activities and reaches out to the integration of social and business goals. These activities need to be seen as those which would, in the long term, help secure a sustainable competitive advantage, thereby, closely linking CSR with the practice of Sustainable Development. CSR is a company’s commitment to operate in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner, while recognizing the interests of its stakeholders.
CSR is still an emerging concept in Pakistan. Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) has recently indulged itself on the subjects of CSR. SDPI worked with partners from South Asia including: Prakruthi Enabling Sustainability (India), CSR Center from Bangladesh and the Center for Afghan Civil Society Support (CACSS) from Afghanistan to contextualize CSR in Pakistan by encouraging corporate sector to act responsibly. Research studies have been conducted to provide a scan on the status of CSR activities in the countries followed by in-depth studies in particular industries. SDPI has published three studies on this subject:
(1) Corporate Conscience: CSR in Pakistan – A study.
(2) Corporate Social Responsibility: Studying the sugar production process in Pakistan.
(3) Towards Sustainable Sugar: Compendium of CSR Initiative in South Asian Countries.
Furthermore, a network, South Asian South Asian Network on Sustainability and Responsibility (SANSAR) has been established to raise awareness on the subject as well as run campaigns to promote CSR activities and support local as well as regional policies on the matter. National chapters of SANSAR were also set up by founding partners in each country.
In addition, SDPI also hosted a series of talk-show programmes, aired on Sustainable Development Television (SDTV) to instigate debate on the topics of CSR.
Corporate Conscience: CSR in Pakistan – A study
The purpose of the study is to contextualize Corporate Social Responsibility in Pakistan. The 2-year study was launched in January 2010. This study took dairy product industry as its sample for study in explaining the value chain analysis. From the starting point, the farmer, to the final point, the individual consumer, the three main parts of supply side, demand side and operational aspect were evaluated on the terms of voluntary and code enforced CSR. The problems and effects of internalization costs in each of these categories and CSR oriented value chain analysis was compared to the costs of ordinary business operations. The study concluded that the concept of creating shared value by inculcating CSR into value chain dynamics requires major changes in organizational cultures and value chain arrangements, and this is far from being fully understood or fully applied in businesses, as most of the companies aware of CSR resort to simple CSR or philanthropy instead of complex CSR modeling and its implementations. Furthermore, the presence of laws and effective codes in dictating certain sustainable practices is lacking, resulting in the main drivers behind CSR being only voluntary actions designed to enhance company image. In addition, stakeholder activism is lacking, both on the consumer and supply ends, hence the only push factor behind CSR is the company itself.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Studying the sugar production process in Pakistan:
This research aims to understand the existing dynamics of CSR in the sugar production sector of Pakistan. The study examines the sugar industry and attempts to verify the barriers to CSR implementation. Applying the value-chain analysis the situation persisting in the sugar division regarding corporate governance was researched and scrutinized carefully. The evaluation took into consideration all aspects and produced this report with respect to the views of all stakeholders. It was found that the farming community was suffering largely due to exploitative practices by some sugar mills. It was found the conceptualization of CSR requires major changes not only in the policies and strategies of the government and companies but also major renovation was required in the mindsets of the policymakers, managers of the private sector as well as the consumers of the product. Activism lacks not only in the private sector but on all levels.
Towards Sustainable Sugar: Compendium of CSR Initiative in South Asian Countries:
Detailed survey and studies have been carried out for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh under the aegis of Oxfam Novib, with the support and coordination of Prakruthi. These are named as “Sweet Responsibility – CSR issues in Indian Sugar Industry”; “Corporate Social Responsibility: Studying the Sugar Production Process in Pakistan” and “Challenges in Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility – The Sugar Industry in Bangladesh”. Findings of the studies from all these reports have been consolidated here. This compendium is not a comparative study of CSR activities in these three countries. Only the relative data have been analyzed for knowledge sharing and for using these best practices as a benchmark for the future.
South Asian Network on Sustainability and Responsibility (SANSAR) is a network born out of the need to improve the sustainability of value chains in the South Asian Countries under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in South Asia project. Founding members include: SDPI from Pakistan, Prakruthi from India, CSR Center from Bangladesh, and the Center for Afghan Civil Society Support from Afghanistan). The project envisions working through a network to prepare organizations in each country to interact and cooperate in promoting responsible practices and sustainability of supply chains. SANSAR, officially launched on 29th March, 2012 in Bangalore, India.
SANSAR – Pakistan:
SANSAR objective is raising awareness for CSR interventions and activities addressing social and environmental issues. In order to achieve this, SDPI has started a registration of nonprofit organizations and educational institutions which are addressing one or more value areas of SANSAR. For the expansion of SANSAR membership SDPI has disseminated invitation letter and registration form to different nonprofit organizations, business schools, Academia, Government institutions and Research institutes in overall Pakistan. Currently SDPI has awarded SANSAR membership to 44 organizations in all over the Pakistan.
Events and Activities:
Corporate Social Responsibility Talk-show Series
After having published two research books on topics of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), with a third under progress, having found the South Asian Network for Sustainability, Accountability and Responsibility (SANSAR) on the regional level, hosting SANSAR-Pakistan (a national chapter) SDPI has recently aired a series of CSR talk-shows on its very own Sustainable Development Television (SDTV). SDTV is first of its kind web based TV in Pakistan; constantly producing documentaries on issues of concern to SDPI. The SDTV reflects SDPI’s drive to continue to operate as a dynamic organization that is innovative and forward looking in its approach. Through SDPI’s new TV channel SDPI will reach out to wider audiences and engage audiences on a new platform ensuring that important messages are shared not only with development practitioners and policy makers but also with the wider public.
Corporate Social Responsibility Program Part-1
CSR talk-shows are the first step towards a CSR awareness campaign which will spread information on the topics CSR to the public, civil society, policy makers, businesses and consumers nationally, regionally and globally. The first show held was an introductory programme explaining what CSR incorporates, its definitions, how it is different from philanthropy and why it is important to the developing countries. In this show Dr Moin Uddin, Director Corporate Strategy, from a well-known multinational company was invited to share success stories and learning points from a business’s perspective.
Corporate Social Responsibility Program Part-2
The second show three eminent guests joined us at SDTV studio to speak on whether legislation is necessary to promote CSR in Pakistan or not. The guests also touched upon what patterns our neighboring or other countries are following. Dr Jennifer Bennet, who has worked extensively on development and population welfare was one of the guests. Mr Ahmad Qadir from the Competition Commission of Pakistan and Ms Zohra Sarwar from Securities and Exchange Commission Pakistan also joined us to present the view of Pakistani Government as a regulator. The show also held a discussion on the recently published National Voluntary CSR Guidelines.
Corporate Social Responsibility Program Part-3
Mr Nadeem Iqbal from the Network for Consumer Protection presented his views in the third show on what factors are pushing businesses into Corporate Social Responsibility in Pakistan and whether consumer demand is an important factor in the push. SDPI’s campaign expert Ms Imrana Niazi explained how consumer demand can be used to promote CSR activities. Ms Anam Khan confronted with the fact that in a poor country like Pakistan majority of the consumers care less if a product is “green” or CSR complaint and more if it is cheaper. The debate was vibrant and informative.
Corporate Social Responsibility Program Part-4
A fourth show was designed on the newly emerging concept of conflict-sensitive business. Mr Shafqat Munir a well-known civil society analyst presented on how the businesses can be involved to tone-down the conflict arising in our society with international examples and patterns we may follow. Dr Vaqar Ahmad having conducted a study on the topic at SDPI also shared some results and on-ground realities.
Corporate Social Responsibility Program Part-5
It was surprising that while almost all manifestos spoke of providing business-friendly laws, attracting investments, encouraging small and medium enterprises none touched upon the fact that business can and should contribute to the development of this country both economically and socially. Just before the election SDPI aired the fifth CSR talk-show especially on the subject of political agendas and the inclusion of CSR.
The final show compromised of a popular panel: Mr Altaf Saleem a recognized businessman and CSR expert, Ambassador (R) Shafqat Kakakhel a renowned diplomat and CSR advisor to many private companies, complemented with SDPI’s internal research associate Ms Anam A Khan, heading CSR Research at SDPI. Ms Khan exposed that none of the political parties included the businesses or the importance of CSR in their manifestos presented before the election. Mr Kakakhel explained the reason for this being that the political leaders even today are old school feudalists and care less for the local society. Mr Saleem added that this might be also due to the fact that CSR-talk will not gain the party any popularity since the public is not aware of the issue and hence not interested in the solutions that the private sector can present. Mr Saleem also added that the private sector has the potential to support the state in many activities towards the development of this nation but is not given the opportunity by the government and neither is appreciated enough.
CSR Pakistan report launched
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) launched two reports titled “Corporate Conscience: CSR in Pakistan – A study” and “Corporate Social Responsibility: Studying the Sugar Production Process in Pakistan” on 4th July 2012. Chief Guest for this event was a senior politician and business man Jahangir Khan Tareen. Other speakers for the events were, Shaista Sohail, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Industries and Production, Shaista Bano, Director, Competition Commission of Pakistan, Shafqat Munir, Co-ordinator Asia Rights in Crisis, Oxfam, Iskander Khan, Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA), Muhammad Imran, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility Centre Pakistan, Dr Abid Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, Qasim Ali Shah, Director Programme Development, SDPI and Anam A Khan, Research Associate, SDPI spoke on the occasion.
SANSAR membership awarding ceremony:
SDPI is hosting the secretariat of SANSAR-Pakistan. SANSAR-Pakistan membership awarding ceremony was hosted by SDPI on 10th September 2013 at Margalla Hotel, Islamabad. The speakers for this event included: Mr. Qasim Shah, Director Programme Development SDPI, Anam A. Khan, Research Associate SDPI, Mrs. Azra Mujtaba, Additional Finance Secretary (CF), Ministry of Finance, Mr. Waqas Masud, Director Fazal Industries, and Ali Asher Syed, member of Corporate Affairs Department, Nestlé Pakistan. The event was specifically organized to promote dialogue between members and officially award membership to members from Islamabad, KP and Punjab. In Pakistan 63 applications were received out of which 42 were awarded membership.
Focal Person: Anam A Khan